When did you last look at a Little League footballer? One day our pint-sized sixty-five pound bundle of explosive energy stormed into our Mississippi parsonage, peeled off his hundred-pound protective “suit of armor” and exploded, “I’m never going back!”
Beneath that protective gear appeared a deeply offended eight-year-old PK (preacher’s kid), a small statured boy with a huge sense of fair play. In his uniform, he looked as believable as his idol, Johnny Unitas. When he joined Little League football, he felt the thrill of game-time glory and anticipated receiving equal playing time with every other boy his age.
His Coach, on the other hand, had more concern about winning games than about building boys. His criteria judged this pint-sized warrior too small for anything but bench duty. Such disappointments transformed this boy into a fierce competitor that eventually took up body-building and a chance to compete.
This experience, more than any other, discouraged this wanna-be-star from competing in competitive sports. When he had two sons of his own, he taught them “it’s more about how you play the game, than about winning.”
Wearing the uniform of Christ’s Team has little to do with size and skill and everything with how we wear our uniform and play the game. Jesus does not ask us to beat-out anyone or prove ourselves superior to another before sending us into game competition. He offers us game time and coaches us in grace (Eph. 2:10). He challenges us to be available, and promises his enablement in being what we appear to be.
When writing his prison epistles, Paul challenged his readers to “be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might.” When we take up the full armor of God, we have his assurance that we will be able “to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm” (Eph. 6:10, 13, NASV).
As a follower of Christ, I am called to work at being believable—at becoming what I appear to be. To that end, I need to stand my ground, locate the playing field, participate in the game, and maintain my training schedule rather than submitting to influences preventing further involvement. When I have done everything needed for playing the game, I need to play--“stand firm“(v. 13).
Clearly: (1) I need to dress in full uniform; (2) I need to practice with the team and develop the coordinated skills (inward renewal); and (3) I need to defend the people Satan works so hard to destroy. They are people God cares for deeply, although they come shrink-wrapped in various economic packages, every shade of color, and speak diverse languages. They respond unpredictably in countless ways, giving affirmation to their created uniqueness as eternal souls. Boys, girls, men, women; they are God’s beloved, for whom he incarnated himself in Jesus as a unique expression of Himself (John 3:16-17).
They present opportunities of every form, shape, size, and color describable. Each presents a potential challenge – an occasion to affirm God’s love and resist the enemy of faith. They are potential barriers that present opportunities for bridge-building. They are opportunities awaiting a Godly witnessing of faith. At best; they challenge us to stand firm in our best dress uniform.
God scans the globe, searching recruits to enlist. Unlike our son’s Little League Coach, Jesus invites us to both join His team and enjoy equal playing time. He promises unlimited involvement in life’s most meaningful game; regardless of size, color, culture, or gender.
Superstars like Paul, assure us Coach is ready, willing, and able to perfect in us (or complete) the good work He has already begun (Philippians. 1:6).